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Students Explore Blockchain Technology

DePaul-hosted blockchain coding bootcamp exposes students to this digital ledger technology that could revolutionize how we do transactions.

For undergraduate finance major Pat Gibbons, attending a two-day workshop on blockchain programming provided a way to immerse himself in this emerging digital ledger technology that has the potential to radically change how we use currency, do banking and execute contracts in the future.

“You can stay up-to-date in the business world by reading up on things and listening to the news, but blockchain is definitely something where you need to be around people who are also interested,” says Gibbons, who also is pursuing a minor in data analysis and data mining. “It’s moving so quickly that there is no way for you, as an individual, to find everything you probably want to know.”

The Smart Contracts Coding Workshop took place in mid-August at the Driehaus College of Business’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, an entrepreneurial hub for students, faculty, alumni and the Chicago business community. DePaul  collaborated with Chicago-based organizations spearheading efforts toward blockchain technology education, including the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, the Chicago Blockchain Center, Bloq and FinTEx. Blockchain thought leader Andrew Miller of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign led the workshop, which was open to the public.

Department of Finance Assistant Professor Lamont Black, who hosted the event, says it’s important for DePaul to introduce students to these new trends and help them stay ahead of the curve.

“This level of partnership and collaboration across these organizations and universities is exciting,” he says. “We all have a different niche in the market and need to work together to develop this ecosystem here in Chicago. There is a growing need for education about blockchain, and DePaul can provide this type of unique engagement for students and professionals.”

The workshop attracted graduate and undergraduate students from DePaul and other Chicago universities, as well as other professionals from who work in financial trading, health care and commercial real estate.

The first day of the workshop covered concepts involving blockchain technology, which is the foundation of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. On the second day, attendees learned how to program within ethereum, a blockchain application that delivers smart contracts. Elijah Brewer, chair of department of finance, and Daniel Heiser, chair of the department of management and entrepreneurship, provided opening remarks.

Assistant Professor of Finance Lamont Black
Assistant Professor of Finance Lamont Black hosted the Smart Contracts Coding Workshop with the goal of introducing DePaul students to emerging trends.

Tim Gamble, a junior majoring in computer science, was invited by Black to attend the workshop, along with his roommate Gibbons. He says his interest in blockchain technology stems from his work as a part-time data engineer for the real estate startup company Enodo.

“I’m really interested in emerging technologies,” he says. “Five, 10 years from now I’d like to be working in the financial sector. Many individuals in the workshop have been trading for decades and they see blockchain technologies as something that can have a large impact on how trading is done.”

Black, whose research focuses on banking and financial services, says both his graduate and undergraduate courses introduce blockchain as a transformative technology in finance. He hopes to work with other departments in the business college and DePaul's Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media to develop an interdisciplinary blockchain curriculum across DePaul.

“My goal is to start laying the foundation so that we can provide thought leadership around fintech and other emerging applications of blockchain,” he says. “Blockchain is going to impact the world of business and I want to make sure our students are prepared for the future.”

Learn more about the degree programs in the Department of Finance and Department of Management & Entrepreneurship